“From its opening minutes, The Wheel of Time is epic in scale,” says James Poniewozik in The New York Times. This lush and ambitious Amazon Prime series rivals Game of Thrones, and even Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films, for grandeur and polish. Rosamund Pike stars as a Gandalfian figure, Moiraine of the Aes Sedai, an all-female order of enchanters who weave smoky strands of magic. True, the show’s world-view owes less to realpolitik than that of GoT, but its concept of good and evil is “promisingly complicated”.
I found it impossible to follow, says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. Basically, you’ve got humans in shawls and sheepskins at war with furry goat-headed monsters called Trollocs. Sadly, WoT has missed the essential brilliance of GoT, which was how it undercut its mythos by being ludicrous on purpose. When Pike arrives, everyone goes all quiet and awestruck. “In GoT, when a mysterious stranger walked dramatically into a bar, eyes would roll and somebody would call him a c***.”
My gripe is that, for all of Amazon’s resources – a staggering $10m an episode — The Wheel of Time is sometimes “simultaneously ravishing to behold and slightly cheesy”, says Ed Power in The Daily Telegraph. But the story is pacy, the monsters are exquisite and a rich world is quickly drawn up, “a testament to the mythic grandeur” of Robert Jordan’s original 14-volume fantasy epic. Game of Thrones fans may well be devastated by the lack of nudity and incest, but for everyone else, “this fantasy saga has the potential to cast a spell entirely of its own devising”.
The Wheel of Time is on Amazon Prime. Watch a trailer here.
The Italian botch job
One of the year’s most anticipated films turns out to be knuckle-chewingly awful, says Kevin Maher in The Times. Just out in cinemas, Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci tells the story of how Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga) hired a hitman to kill her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), in 1995. The action quickly lurches into “wonky self-parody” and Gaga’s “Italian” accent is spectacularly bad (“Eeees ah time to ah take out ah dee trash, ah!”). The others aren’t much better, says AO Scott in The New York Times. “You’ve heard of ham? Well, this is a family-size salumi platter.”
Get The Knowledge in your inbox
We cut through the noise to give you the news you need – in just five minutes a day. Sign up for our free daily newsletter here.